Solid Innovations, LLC recently released its premier software product, PerceptEngine, which is an enterprise software solution for Additive Manufacturing.
Now we know there’s a lot of questions surrounding PerceptEngine but for the moment, we’d like to focus on Solid Innovations as an entity and answer the tough questions: Who or what is Solid Innovations? Why does Solid Innovations Exist? Who’s pulling the strings behind the scenes?
What is Solid Innovations, LLC?
Solid Innovations, LLC is the commercial off spring from a meeting of the minds in 2014 between Imperial Machine & Tool Co. and Solid Dynamics, LLC. These, most likely unrecognizable, businesses are important to the Solid Innovations’ saga for one reason and one reason alone… their unsatisfactory experience with Additive Manufacturing (AM) aka 3D-Printing for those out there reading this with a pulse.
You see, 3D-Printing sounds fun and all when watching YouTube videos, sped up 10X, of someone making a glow in the dark Yoda statue but in reality, it’s an almost unbearably slow, painful, and error ridden process. The only way you could possibly know that however is if you were one of the companies or individuals who spent way too much money on capital equipment trying to pioneer your way as an early adopter of 3D-Printing i.e. one of the two companies mentioned above.
These companies hoped to prosper and excel by leveraging this technology in an ever evolving and increasingly competitive global manufacturing market. Unfortunately, 3D-Printing (at the time and still today for the most part) sucks (sorry for being blatant) and was not ready for prime-time.
Saying 3D-Printing "Sucks" is a little harsh don't you think?
A little harsh, definitely, but not uncalled for when looking through the lens of end-use part failure prevention.
Our pioneers soon realized that their capital equipment was all but useless and produced parts only fit for a scrap bin according to existing traditional quality standards for end-use parts (i.e isotropic mechanical properties, consistent geometric tolerances, quality reports, and traceability reports).
The problem with 3D-Printers is that they are really dumb robots carrying out hundreds of thousands if not millions of mechanical movements in order to produce a part (such as the example pictured above) made up of “layers”. If any of those million mechanical operations is performed incorrectly, which happens quiet often, the part now has an error, these errors happen randomly and constantly throughout the “printing” process and result in a defective part from both a geometric and mechanical standpoint. The worst part about this phenomenon is that these mistakes or errors aren’t noticed until after the 3D-Printed part is complete and you’ve wasted a bunch of material and machine time (aka mucho dinero for my Spanish speaking colleagues).
But people are using 3D-Printing now for industrial purposes, what are you blabbering about?
What I’m blabbering about is “Baby-Sitting” and not for humans, no I’m talking about a guy wearing a respirator all day long staring blankly at an expensive robot waiting for it to make a mistake, so he can catch it before it destroys hours or days’ worth of progress. That’s why 3D-Printing sucks. Granted, if you’re a super-user of 3D-Printers and have spent 100’s if not 1000’s of hours with them, you’ll know your machines well enough to maintain and operate them properly to minimize errors but even then, costly errors still occur.
Post-process methods of inspection, often expensive and time consuming, are commonly used to detect flaws within additively produced parts and verify part end-usability. However, even with existing CMM & CT scanning technology, it is difficult to verify features like the geometries of internal passageways and mechanical properties of large 3D-Printed parts. Many methods of post-process part verification require destructive testing but since additive parts on the same build-plate don't even share identical properties, which means these methods have significant statistical variation between parts, which makes part verification post-process difficult and untrustworthy.
But all is not lost, Additive's roots were in prototyping, but customers and the 3D-Printing community have continued to push the technology toward production of end-use parts.
Solid Innovations' intends to do its part by automating the quality analysis and verification of part end-usability during the 3D-Printing process.
- Joseph M. Sinclair
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